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Connecticut Garden Journal: Honey bees aren’t the only efficient pollinators

Leafcutter bee, mason bee (Megachilidae), adult with pollen from daisy, Sinton, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend, Texas, USA
Bill Draker
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Getty Images / imageBROKER RF
Mason bees are very efficient pollinators. It only takes two mason bees to pollinate a whole apple tree.

Gardeners are very interested in creating pollinator gardens to support all the insects and creatures that help pollinate our food plants and flowers. But the first order of business is to know who's a pollinator.

The poster child for pollinators is the honey bee. This European, native insect lives in groups in hives and is used commercially to pollinate a variety of plants from almonds to apples. Bumble bees are also popular, hive forming pollinators mostly because they're easy to identify. But there are many native bees, such as squash bees, digger bees, and leaf cutter bees, that are solitary insects and can be very efficient pollinators. Mason bees lay eggs in holes in logs, wood and even masonry. You can even encourage mason bees in your yard by hanging mason bee houses for them to nest. They're very efficient pollinators. It only takes two mason bees to pollinate a whole apple tree. The only downside of mason bees is, unlike honey bees who can forage for pollen for miles, mason bees tend to stay only 100 yards from their nest.

Small flies may seem like a nuisance at summer picnics and outdoor activities, but many are pollinators. Tachinid and syrphid flies look similar to wasps and bees, but are non stinging. They can pollinate a range of flowers and vegetables and some control pest insects, such as aphids and scale, as well.

Beetles are not usually thought of as pollinators, but some, such as scarab and soldier beetles, will pollinate magnolia, sweet shrub, and spirea. Even hummingbirds, with their long tongues, are good pollinators of tube shaped flowers.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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